Austria is a very small country with about 8 million inhabitants. It consists of nine states - one of these states is the capital (Vienna, Wien) itself, where nearly a fifth of all people is living (1,7 million). So you can imagine that in most parts of Austria you will only find small villages and lots of nature, like meadows, fields, many lakes and even more mountains.
Graz (capital of the state "Steiermark"/Styria) is the second largest city of Austria with about 227.000 inhabitants,
Innsbruck (capital of the state "Tirol"/The Tyrol) with about 114.000 inhabitants and
Salzburg (capital of the same-named state) with about 150.000 belong to the smaller cities.
Thanks to the international migration, tourism and education, you will find many people able to speak English in all generations.
We are proud to be the home country of many famous people - tourists know Austria for its sophisticated kitchen, with "Wiener Schnitzel", "Sacher Torte" (famous chocolate cake), „Apfelstrudel“ (apple stroodle) on the basic side of the range, "Sound of Music" (funnily only rarely known in Austria), its' composers of classic music (Mozart, Bruckner, Haydn, Schubert, Strauß), though we also got some important writers in German literature as well as internationally known artists (Schiele, Klimt).
For you as a medical student it could be of interest that some important Austrians contributed to medicine, a few examples for internal medicine are Landsteiner (found the blood groupsAB0 and Rh), Škoda (invented our percussion and auscultation; he was born in todays Czech Republic which then belonged to Austria, studied in Vienna and then worked and lived here until he died) and somehow also Doppler (published works on what we today call "doppler effect", basis for ultra-sonography and many more). Not to forget that Austrian doctors contributed to our medical knowledge in many fields of medicine for example in anatomy, patholgy, surgery (Rokitansky, Billroth), hygienics (Semmelweis who studied here but was Austrian-Hungarian) and fields of psychology/psychotherapy (Freud, Frankl, Adler). Surely the Viennese Medical School had a long and glorious tradition which came to an end with the hostile antisemitic environment before the Second World War. Many important scientists already left the country even before 1938 or then where removed from their jobs, chased away or killed. Institutional research only slowly recoverd and doubtless the big global players on medical inventions can be found elswhere, though some new discoveries are still being made here and some institutions have a good reputation in the scientific community.
Check these links
- Information about Tourism in Austria - http://www.austria.info/uk
- Austrian Embassy - http://www.austria.org
- Austrian Government - http://www.austria.gv.at/site/3327/Default.aspx
- City of Vienna - https://www.wien.gv.at/english/
- City of Innsbruck - http://www.innsbruck.info/en/
- City of Graz - https://www.graztourismus.at/en
- City of Salzburg - http://www.salzburg.info/en
In Austria there is a compulsory health insurance, therefore 98% of the population have an insurance. For the individuals, there is no choice on the insurance company as this system was historically organized according to specific occupational groups and therefore people become automatically clients of the respective insurance company (e.g. "the farmers health insurance company", the insurance company for employees, etc.) depending on their profession. Additionally, you can have a private health insurance, which covers some extras (for example in hospital single room with better standard, e.g. air-condition), some services provided in a private practise that are not already paid by the compulsory insurance, special transportation costs (a normal ambulance if really needed is free, but e.g. the helicopter is not coverd in most cases of accidents when doing just some leisure time activites) and so on. The need for a private insurance is very low, as it is prohibited by law to make a difference in the treatment of patients depending wheter they have an additional health insurance or not. So all necessary treatment and medication is covered by the public health system.
For historical reasons, the Health system is not directly run by the State's administration. Free physicians and hospital services are provided to everyone, funded from special health taxes. Hospitals are either run by state or regions or they are private, but have contracts with the public ensurance companies. Hospital staff are salaried according to nationally agreed contracts.
For doctors having a private practise, most of them can only survive if having contracts with the insurance companies - people grow up with the feeling that the health system is free and most never would get the idea of paying for a doctor's consultation. Why should you see a doctor and pay him if you could see another one for free? The answer to this question is the reason, why there are some doctors running real "private" practices where people pay for the consultation (which partly is refunded by the health system or the additional private insurance): These doctors are either very popular and known to be "good" or patients like to go their because they are more patient and have more time for the patients problem (a usual price is 100€ for such a private consultation, whereas the public insurance e.g. would just pay 20€ of this). So the primary care is largely provided by independent practices and are paid via nationally agreed contracts, according to the number of patients registered with them and the range of additional services offered. Those contracts are hard to get for doctors wanting to open a private practice - the health sector is regulated and you will not find private pratices and pharmacies on every corner.
For prescriptions there is a deductible of € 5,70. The % of GDP for health costs is 10,2, which is above the OECD‘s average of 9,0. Life expectancy was in 2005 for women 82,24 and 76,65 for men. Generally, taxes for income are quite high and so is also the obligatory health tax, so adult doctors end up paying more than 55% of their income on taxes!
Austria has 5 public and 3 private universities. The majority of the students study in public universities, which are free of cost for aucstrian students.
For all 5 public universites there is the same entrance exam which takes place once a year at the same time in every city, so one can only apply for one university. To guarantee Austria's healthcare future, following quota was introduced: 75% of the spots go to Austrian citizens, 20% to EU citizens and 5% to all other yountries. The best ranked students of each quota will be given a spot in the university which they applied for. You can take the test as many times as you like. The private universities have different entrance exams and other requirements.
We study 6 years in the public universities and 5 years in the private ones. The The first one to two years are mostly preclinical studies, followed by clinical studies. At the end, there is a practical part (in different fields) lasting 12 - 24 months, depending on the university you are studying at.
After graduation we receive the title "Dr. med. univ." (Doctor medicinae universae). The following year is called KPJ - klinisch-praktisches Jahr (practical, clinical year) and is compulsory for everyone. This is a year where you (again) rotate through all departments. After this year, you can decide to become a general practitioner (3 years) or enter a specialty (4-6 years).
Medical University of Vienna (MUW)
Medical University of Innsbruck (MUI)
Medical University of Graz (MUG)
Johannes Kepler University Linz (JKU)
Paracelsus Medical Private University (PMU)
If you want to explore our country on weekends, we would recommend you our public train (ÖBB) or FLIXBUS, which are clean and comfortable. You can reach a lot of interesting places within a very short time! A journey from the far east to the west end of Austria would take about 8 hours (800 km). You can get information about the train system under: ÖBB
If you are planning to travel by train, it is advisable to buy the “VORTEILScard” (also termed "euro<26"; "Vorteil" is german and means "advantage"; €19.9). With this card you get a 50% reduction of the normal price on train-tickets inside Austria and in case you take a train out of Austria also 25% for the part of the ride that goes outside of Austria. All you need to get this card are an age under 26, a photo and an Austrian address (dormitory's address). You can buy it at all ÖBB ticket counters. There is also the VORTEILScard classic for people older than 26 years (€ 99.90 but you have to do a lot of travelling to be cheaper than without it!). If you for example take a ride from Vienna to Salzburg, both directions would cost ~100€ full price. If you buy the card, you pay only half, so the total price was ~20+52=55€.
Each year the Austrian Railway Company offers a special ticket that you can use it from July to the beginning of September on all trains of ÖBB in Austria and the „Raaberbahn“ (not included further private railways, rack and pinion railway and spezial occasion transportation). Selling starts by middle of June with updated prices and conditions on the oebb-website (you better check there about actual prices and time limitations). Usually valid from Monday till Friday from 8:00 a.m. till midnight as well as the whole day on saturdays, sundays and public holidays for the 2nd Class.
You need to have a valid ÖBB VORTEILScard <26 to buy it!
The summer ticket is available for
- €39 for everyone until 19 years old
- €69 for everyone from 20 till under 26 years
For travelling around Europe by train check out: http://www.oebb.at/en/Travelling_abroad/index.jsp . Of special interest for you will be "Sparschiene" (could be translated as "budget rail") and "Interrail". Interrail is for travelling to many countries/cities, Sparschiene is recommended for weekend-trips.
The Interrail-ticket is an all-inclusive ticket for residents of Europe (in a geographical meaning, details see website above) - you can choose periods (5/10/15/22/30 days) and the countries (up to all Europe). One month for all Europe ("Globalpass") <26-price would be 409€, adult 619€. This ticket is for all trains, travelling by seats in 2nd class (which usually is very good) with no reservation (mostly not necessary but you can add up and buy one). If you want to take a train with sleeping cabine, this would cost around 20€ extra (in 6bed cabine). But check it out yourselves (website above). For purchasing this ticket you will need to show your passport, whose number will be part of the ticket. If you don't have a permanent adress in any European country, you can't buy that ticket (only exception: you got a visa for longer than 6 months). But don't worry, there are similar offers for tourists from different sites such as www.eurail.com with slightly higher prices.
The Sparschiene-ticket are single tickets with night trains with very cheap conditions. If you book for example a bed in a 6bed-cabine, you would also get a breakfast. It can be booked online and the fares are cheaper the sooner you book. Look at the website above. You will find prices (one-way) for example single directions Vienna to Venice/Firence/Milano/Bologna/Rome (from 29€), Dresden/Munich/Frankfurth/Berlin/Hamburg (from 29€), Prague, Budapest (both from 19€), Krakow/Warschaw (from 59€) and Amsterdam (from 69€). But you need to book soon - best is MONTHs in advance! You can check the availability online and buy with your credit card.
Travelling by bus
Travelling by bus became a lot easier and cheaper as the train in the last years in Austria. Depending on different directions you have to find (also use google) and choose the right bus company for you. Ticket prices vary - the earlier you buy, the cheaper they are (buy online with credit card). A few recommendations:
- FLIXBUS - this bus has an unbelievably wide route network, is cheap and comfortable and very convenient for traveling in Europe
- Hellö - quite new, cheap and perfect for trips to neighbouring countries.
- Eurolines - Not the cheapest but with reasonable prices and a broad network of destinations
- Organe Ways - Main bus routes from Hungary to all neighbouring countries and popular destinations
- Student agency bus - Main bus routes from Czech Republic, similar to Orangeways; buy online at http://czech-transport.com/
Travelling by plane
Cheap and recommendable airlines ("low-cost carriers") are:
- German Wings
- FlyBe (no service to Austria/Bratislava)
- Brussels Airline
They all have flights from main Airports in Austria; but also check out "Bratislava" as origin if you are in Vienna, this actually is in the neighbouring country Slovakia, but is only 70km away from Vienna with very good bus and train connections and used by many Austrians for cheap flights (we recommend you the bus from Ryanair or Eurolines, cost around 8€ one-way, takes about 1 hour, directly from U3 station Erdberg in Vienna - book online in advance). Generally also here you get cheapest tickets only if you buy months in advance! Basic fare often only inlcudes 1 piece of lugagge for the cabin and normal bags are due to extra charge. Also think of connecting flights rather than searching for a direct flight (e.g. it can be much cheaper to go Vienna-London-Granada in Spain instead of looking for a direct flight to Granada) which sounds crazy but that's the system works. One reason why those flights are so cheap is that they sometimes are not located at the closest international airports of the respective destination but farer away at another one with lower charges. This can lead to misunderstanding and you ending up many many kilometers away from the city you actually wanted to go (e.g. Ryan Air flies to "Franfurt/Hahn" which is a hub for many flights, but actually 80km away from Frankfurt; same story that you pick "Bratislava" if you want to go/come to Vienna). But no worries, there are always bus services for extra charge - so be sure that you find out all "hidden costs" before you book!
Most Austrian people are punctual and expect others to be so too. A typical thing is Austrian coziness, which does in no aspect mean laziness! Sometimes you might have the feeling that Austrian people are born magistrates (yes, a lot of paperwork), eventhough most people don't enjoy it. One thing that people here maybe also share with other nations is that people often use the chance to moan about something.
Last but not least, there is the saying that there's an "Austrian Way" of solving problems. This is when something is done in a way that doesn't intimidate someone, which may result in half-hearted solution from an exterior point of view. The best example for this is how the law handels smoking. It is prohibited in public areas like universities, hospitals, governmental offices, most workplaces, but not in all bars and restaurants - the current rule is that the main area of the restaurant/bar must be non-smoker, other rooms must be seperated by a wall to prevent exchanging the smoke but if the whole facility is smaller than 50m², there is a free choice to declare whether it's non-smoker or smoker.
Important Phone Numbers
- Fire department 122
- Police department 133
- Ambulance 144
- International Emergency Call 112
- First-Aid Doctor 141
How to phone abroad from Austria
- Dial 00 (international call prefix)
- Dial your country code
- Dial area code and phone number
How to phone to Austria from abroad
- Dial 00 (international call prefix)
- Dial 43 (country code for Austria)
- Dial area code in Austria (without the leading “0” if it is provided)
- Dial phone number
Note that example: The area code for Vienna is "01" for calls within Austria and "1" for international calls, e.g.: if you want to phone the Viennese number 40 4000, you dial 01 40 4000 (in Austria) or +43 1 40 4000 (from abroad). For calls within Vienna you can omit the leading 01 if you use a regular phone, but not if you use a mobile phone.
There are always some public phone booths around the city. They operate either with telephone cards, with coins or some even work with credit cards (minimum is 0,20€). If you are lucky you can find a multimedia phone booth, where you can surf the web, write emails and text messages and even make a videophone call. Emergency calls (phone numbers 122, 133, 144) and numbers beginning with 0800 are free calls. For these neither coins nor telephone cards are needed.
In Austria the mobile networks are GSM standard 1800 or 900 MHz. There are five mobile service providers, namely A1 (http://www.a1.net), t-mobile (http://www.t-mobile.at), Orange (http://www.orange.at), tele.ring (http://www.telering.at) and Drei (http://www.drei.at). If you have already a mobile, which is not sim-locked, you may consider buying a prepaid sim- card. If you want to buy a new mobile be careful, because most new phones come with a 12 month minimum contract. Good prepaid SIM-cards are BOBhttp://www.bob.at (6,8 cent per min) or YESSS http://www.yesss.at (also 6,8 cent per min). You can get BOB at every post office (e.g. LKH entrance area) and YESSS at every Hofer http://www.hofer.at supermarket – but also at other mobile phone shops. (mobile phone in German = “Handy”)
Banks & Cash Machines/ATM
Since 2002 the currency in Austria (like in almost every other country in the European Union) is the Euro (1 Euro = 100 Cents), abbreviated € or EUR. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., Thursdays until 5:30 p.m. It is possible to exchange foreign currency at any bank and most railway stations. Credit cards are widely accepted, but please check in advance. You can get cash at ATMs (automatic telling machines) or cash points (“Bankomat”, marked with special signs) with your Maestro Card, Visa, Eurocard, Mastercard, AmericanExpress, EuroCheque and many more.
Getting Robbed, Beaten Up...
Generally, Austria is a very very safe country so you shouldn’t get into any trouble. Of course, as everywhere in the world you can come across drunken or crazy people that you should be a little bit careful of. Do not make fun of them, especially when they are bigger than you, baldy or muscular and consider rather walking in a group than alone after midnight.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking
In Austria it is illegal to take any kind of drugs, including Marihuana. The legal drinking age is 16 for “soft” alcoholic drinks like beer or wine and 18 for any kind of alcohol (though many kids are allowed to sip/drink already before in their families and "drinking" is generally broadly accepted, ranking Austria top in worlds' consumption statistics with 75 litres of alcocol/per head/per year"). Drinking is allowed everywhere, so you can also enjoy your drinks in a park. Smoking is allowed from the age of 16. Note that smoking is not allowed in public buildings, unless explicitly specified, but allowed outside.
International Student Identity Card (ISIC)
With this card you get a reduction at cinemas, theatres, public baths, etc. With or without the card, it is advisable to ask for possible reductions for students wherever you go. The card is available in any STAtravel office (logically you need to show some proof that you are student if you want to get one!).